‘New facts’ halt extradition of Mozambique’s former finance minister
The decision to extradite former Mozambique finance minister and member of parliament Manuel Chang has been halted as it appears he enjoys immunity in the country.
Minister of justice and correctional services Ronald Lamola authorised the director-general of the department of justice and constitutional development, Vusi Madonsela, to file papers in response to Chang’s urgent application to be surrendered to the Mozambique authorities.
According to a statement by the ministry of justice and correctional services, released on Saturday, the new information revealed that Chang enjoys double immunity in terms of Mozambican law.
The immunity suggested that extradition to Mozambique would contravene the SADC Protocol, South African Constitution and the Extradition Act, rendering the decision to extradite illegal, the ministry said.
The information emerged after the decision to extradite Chang to Mozambique.
According to the statement, “the SA Extradition Act requires that the person to be extradited should have been charged for the crimes he is alleged to have committed. In Chang's case it is not the case since his immunities were not yet lifted.
“The department has, therefore approached the court to take into account the new information vis-a-vis the former minister's decision. The minister will be guided by the outcomes of the three applications on what action to take.”
Chang, 63, was Mozambique's finance minister from 2005 to 2015. He was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on December 29 last year for his alleged involvement in $2bn (roughly R27.82bn) in fraudulent loans to Mozambican state firms.
AFP reported in February that the Mozambican government took out loans amounting to $2bn to buy a tuna fishing fleet and surveillance ships, but hid the transaction from parliament and international donors.
The hidden debt plunged Mozambique into its worst financial crisis since independence from Portugal in 1975, as donors froze contributions.
An independent audit found that a quarter of the loan amount was diverted and not accounted for. The US alleges that at least $200m (R2.78bn) was spent on bribes and kickbacks, including $12m (R167m) on Chang, who allegedly signed off on debt guarantees.
SA’s former justice minister, Michael Masutha, decided in May to extradite Chang to Mozambique and not the US.